Beer Culture

Stories about great beer from the countries that invented it.

Tag: hops

Beer Hacking: Dry-Hopped Bernard Sváteční Ležák


“What’s the hoppiest beer you have?,” someone asked.

I have no idea. I don’t think anyone knows. We don’t keep track of hoppiness here, not in the sense of boasting about IBUs and alpha acid percentages. The brewers at Pilsner Urquell told me that their beer has 40 IBUs, but most brewers here wouldn’t be able to do much more than guess. It’s simply not an issue. Beer here is supposed to be good, that’s for sure. But it’s not necessarily supposed to be terribly hoppy.

However, high levels of hop bitterness and aroma seem to get a lot of attention among American beer fans, and the question got me thinking: what would it be like to take a perfectly great Czech pale lager and crank the hoppiness up a notch?

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The Historical Perspective on Saaz Hops

Stan Hieronymus has a note on the first use of Žatecký chmel (Saaz hops) as a protected designation of origin. According to a press release from the Hop Growers Union of the Czech Republic, the 2007-2008 vintage is the first hop harvest to use the term that is now protected by European Union law, the first such protection for a hop varietal in the EU.

Of course, several types of beer have protected designation of origin status within the EU, the most important of which (in Czech terms) is “Budějovické pivo.” I’ve written before about an earlier push for a protected name status on Pilsner, which failed.

Just to provide a little historical background, I wanted to mention that there was already a push for the use of “Žatecký chmel” as the correct term for Saaz hops way back in 1922, a move which caused quite a bit of controversy at the time. In fact, if you squint just a little, the use of that term can be seen as one of the many small events that brought about World War II.

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One Solution to the Hop Shortage: Hemp Beer


The global hop shortage has grabbed a lot of attention in the past few months, with no likelihood of the situation getting better anytime soon. At least one craft brewer with enough stock has offered to share his stash. Others are suggesting alternative beers made with spices, peppers or thistles. But the most natural solution might just be hemp beer, known as Hanfbier in German.

While hemp blossoms are unlikely to replace legendary hops like Hallertau, Spalt and Goldings in desirability, there are several similarities between the plants. Both are members of the cannabaceae family, as is marijuana. Many times I’ve noted grassy, pot-like scents while tasting beers with great aroma hops, and once in a hop yard in Žatec, aka Saaz, I was almost overcome by what I thought was the smell of hydroponic sativa. A couple of years ago I caught the same skunky scent while driving past a hemp farm in Southern Moravia. If hemp smells like marijuana and marijuana smells like hops, as long as there are no hops to be had, why not make hemp beer?

Several brewers in Europe — including at least two in the Czech Republic — already do.

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